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Warfare and weapons

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Warfare and weapons

Wars were frequent in ancient Hawai`i with chiefs attacking rival islands or battling rival factions on their own island. Although frequent, wars required months of careful preparation and were not undertaken lightly. A chief consulted advisors as well as kahuna, or priests, then drew his army from among lower-ranked chiefs and faithful warriors.

Armies fought their battles during daylight hours. Individual champions fought each other or whole armies battled. Women often accompanied the men into battle.

Hand-held weapons of wood and stone meant combat was close and fierce. Warriors used short and long spears for thrusting and throwing. Clubs were carved from wood or made of a shaped stone lashed to a wooden handle. Daggers were carved from wood but other cutting weapons were edged with shark's teeth. Tripping weapons - invented by Hawaiians - were made of a weight attached to a long cord that could be thrown and wrapped around an enemy's legs to bring him to the ground. Warriors used slings to throw stones with great accuracy from a distance.

Warriors trained rigorously and kept in top athletic form by competing in games like boxing, wrestling and foot races during peacetime. Many practiced lua or hula, the two related traditions of martial arts and dance.

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